is the iPhone the new Rolex?

About 8 months ago, my watch broke.  Nothing serious, a pin fell from the band.  I kept it in my bedroom drawer.  After about 3 months of not using it, I finally took it to the jewelry store.  They looked at it and said it’d cost about $10 to fix; The watch itself was a Nixon Graduate SS, worth about $100 new.  I agreed to the repair.  When the jewelry store returned my watch, it had a pin back in place, but it was a little loose.  I lost the pin (and re-broke my watch) in two days.

At this point, I gave up.

I returned my watch to its well-hewn place inside my beside table and thought little more of it.  Besides, at that point I had already grown used to checking my cell phone for the time.  There have already been numerous articles about how the cellular phone taking the place of the watch in American life.  However ever since I purchased an Apple iPhone this month, I have been wondering exactly what relation the cellular phone is going to take to the wristwatch in the coming years.  Most commentators have said that the cell phone is simply rendering the watch obsolete. I have come around to the view that cell phones (especially as they become more feature-filled and hence more expensive) are actually replacing the former place of wristwatches as the chief social means of conveying social status to others.

A Rolex or Omega watch previously enjoyed (and still do, to a certain extent) a level of cache that is associated with only a few other things–sports cars, yachts, big houses, etc.  The distinction between a Rolex and any of the things listed then must be that a Rolex can be easily sported on the hand while riding the subway or in the meeting room–a Yacht cannot be brought along for an errand to the store.

I am convinced that a Rolex or Omega is worn not to enjoy any of the supposedly superior technological innovations that are put into its manufacture.  It is for the simple purpose of conveying wealth and stature.  How, then should this not be the same case with the iPhone or some other hideously-expensive device?  Humans are seen daily checking their e-mails, talking on the phone, and sending text messages.  These activities have long replaced the older flick of the wrist to signify checking what time it was.  How then is the cell phone any different than a watch?  In no way that I can see.  It follows that the most expensive or hard-to-come-upon phone of any season will (and probably already does) contain the same amount of cache as any fancy watch.

2 responses to “is the iPhone the new Rolex?

  1. “…the most expensive or hard-to-come-upon phone of any season will (and probably already does) contain the same amount of cache as any fancy watch.”

    But the most expensive mobile phone on the market (generally around £400 I guess… so $800) is not really gonna touch the lower end Rolex watches which are around £1500 or so generally. I think Mobile phones (sorry, cell phones! :P) are just a trend thing, less about wealth, more about cool and showing you’re with the tech of the moment.
    Also, things like iphones are made to last about 3 yrs to be junked after that general time period whereas many see a nice watch as a semi-investment of sorts. Rolex’s etc do lose value if worn etc but not rapidly and will last for ever. An ipod of any kind has a limited lifespan and for that reason, I think its just another part of western spend and chuck consumerism! Has pretty flashy things on it tho, its gotta be said… 🙂

  2. You’re more or less correct. I think that the problem with Rolex is that they are not creating a meaningful impression on people my age (18-24). We definitely hold devices like computers and cell phones as more valuable than watches. Only time will tell but I think that spending $4000 on a watch is an action of the past; disposable incomes are shrinking and I think there will be a greater impulse to spend a large amount of money on a cell phone rather than a nice watch; at least amongst the people who are not so wealthy they have more money than they know what to do with. But I think that the sweet spot between having a disposable income at all and having too much money—this demographic is what determines trends and values within a society.

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